Coughing concern…

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Today we took Moop to the Dr’s. She’s had a cold for almost three weeks now but during this last week, she’s had a cough that’s only been getting worse, especially at night. After listening to her poor little wheezy chest, we’ve been given some antibiotics as well as the same steroids that are found in asthma inhalers to clear it up, hopefully within 48 hours.

As my Dad, my brother, and my husband all have asthma, it’s not particularly surprising that it looks like our youngest has it. With a bit of luck, as is quite common, she may well grow out of it in a few years (she may not have many problems at all). In fact if she takes after the three who have it, she’ll only really notice it after a virus (which will go to her chest) or on the odd occasion where she’ll have to dig out an old inhaler. So all in all, it likely won’t affect her particularly.I called the Dr after the cold had; 1) lasted three weeks and 2) after the cough had gotten worse rather than better; mainly because you get those patronising head tilt questions sometimes when you take a baby to the Dr, “Is this your first?” As if the child has sneezed once and you’ve called an ambulance. With Holly’s rather traumatic pregnancy, I have to admit, my husband and I have to take that extra moment to reassure ourselves if we think she’s poorly. We’re slightly less sure this time round because we’re still on high alert in this first year. Holly is now older than her pregnancy. I was pregnant for just under 8 months and she is now just over 8 months. 

The thing is, I kept myself relaxed by saying ‘you don’t go to the Dr with a cold. Not until it lasts longer than three weeks or if symptoms worsen for goodness sake.’ I said this over and over in my head (whilst maintaining an outward vision of serenity and control of course…!). So when she had a particularly wheezy bout of coughing this morning after a bad night, and I double checked my calendar (as if I didn’t know exactly how many days it had been); I realised that, not only had it been three weeks but her cough was definitely getting worse. And at that point my mindset went from ‘nothing to worry about until…etc’ to ‘God why didn’t I call sooner about this’. In the space of half hour I went from feeling like a neurotic mother to a neglectful one! “My poor baby, this terrible cough, the strained breathing, the wheezing in her chest, HOW did I not call sooner?!” 

As a parent, there is no such thing as finding the balance…you’re definitely wrong, it just depends on which way you are wrong! 

The Dr’s surgery was delayed, so I spent the twenty minute waiting room telling myself I was a terrible parent, and when she coughed I imagined all the other people waiting thinking ‘take that poor child away from that horrible mother, fancy leaving a cough like that till now’. (In hindsight that was perhaps a tiny bit dramatic but everyone looks a bit shifty in a Dr’s waiting room, it’s the nerves and the eery silence, who knows what goes on in those people’s heads!!) 

Anyway, we were called in. And although I’m sure I didn’t, it felt like I sat down and immediately yelled the Dr my excuse about leaving it three weeks because that’s the advice I’d been given with my first, ‘don’t call the Dr for three weeks if it’s just a cold’. He listened to her chest and then came the longest 15 seconds of my life. The only sounds in the room were Holly’s strained and wheezy breathing, I watched the Dr’s face turn from ‘general polite’ , to ‘concentrated concern’. The clocks ticking suddenly sounded insanely loud. 

The Dr then said, ‘no that doesn’t sound pleasant poor little one’. Then he paused.

Oh God oh God oh God oh God.

‘Right, she’s a bit young for an inhaler, but it does seem like asthma. Is there anyone in the family with it?’

I nodded.

‘Ok I’ll write a couple of prescriptions which should clear this up in the next 48 hours, if by he end of this week it’s not cleared up, call us back and we’ll look into sorting an inhaler straight away.’

And funnily enough at no point did he tell me that I was a crappy mother, and at no point did a swat team come bursting in the room to arrest me for neglect. So that was nice.

Parenthood can be punishing, like a lot of the time! And even though I was HUGELY that person who scornfully tutted at ‘neurotic’ parents, I now get that, when it comes to your child, suddenly your imagination becomes your worst enemy. Because yes, these terrible unthinkable incidents are one in a million, but there is no guarantee that yours won’t be that one. We all turn our eyes away for a second, and in that second horrible things can happen. We all dismiss symptoms when 999 out of a 1000 times they mean a cold or generic bug, but there are terrifying things that those ‘harmless symptoms’ can mean in the remaining 1 in 1000 times. 

We were incredibly lucky with the safe arrival of Holly, I know I’ve said it a million times but there were several occasions where we were told things could go wrong, from the very beginning of the pregnancy, we had countless tense waits whilst we saw if she had; 1) implanted on the right side as the other side of my uterus wasn’t strong enough to carry her (I have a bicornuate uterus and my first pregnancy left one side of it too weak to sustain a pregnancy). 2) grown enough when a scan was unclear. 3) whether my deteriorating kidneys would hold out long enough for the pregnancy to last long enough for a healthy arrival. 4) whether the increased severity of epilepsy would lead to a fall or accident. Looking back on it makes me anxious, we were so incredibly lucky to pass all the hurdles. I suppose part of me feels like I got away with it TOO lucky, too unscathed. It puts me on edge! 

Apart from some digestive problems early on for Holly and now some mild asthma symptoms, our two girls are perfectly healthy and I not only touch wood but clutch desperately onto wood and hope beyond hope that that stays the case. Obviously I don’t expect them to never have colds or get into the odd scrape, but those types of things are every parents worst nightmare. The dangers and illnesses around that you have no control over could drive anyone insane if you thought about them too much! 

So I rationalised and called after three weeks when the cough got worse, and kept all the crazy in my head, with just a tiny bit seeping out as I death stared down anyone in the Dr’s waiting room that I thought could be thinking negative things(…!).

My Grandad used to say ‘if you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything’, which I used to disagree with slightly. I always thought, well, clothes and things are quite handy too actually! But now I’m a Mum I understand what he meant. Our girls being ok means EVERYTHING to me. Grandad didn’t necessarily mean HIS health, I think he meant that if his loved ones had their health, he had everything. 

There is no rhyme or reason behind why some children and their families have to go through so much pain. I always wish I could do more to help when a child is ill or hurt. Every parent can empathise, or could do easily be any one of us and we all know it. It’s why we insist on cuddling our loved ones extra tight when we hear about the suffering of others. 

We’ve all escalated things in our heads; illnesses, injuries, the horrible and ridiculous outcomes we play out in our heads when we receive a message that says ‘can you call me’! But it’s not because we’re stupid, or neurotic or weak. It’s because we care, we love, we want to protect. 

So don’t let anyone make you feel bad if you rush your baby to A&E because she’s suddenly screaming in pain (my husband had to hold me back when the Dr dared to look me in the eye and accusingly ask if I was feeding her enough because ‘baby’s cry when they’re hungry’. Bastard!), it will often turn out to be something minor (like minor digestion problems for example!). But on the offchance it’s something more serious, to make ABSOLUTELY sure one of my precious girls is ok, I’ll take my chances with that bloody patronising head tilt anyway! 

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Dear daughters…

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A few nights ago, I was feeling particularly sentimental. My husband and I came to the end of an extremely busy month, which had various different high pressure or stressful situations, and we opened a bottle and took some time together to relax. We are very excited about this Christmas, Holly’s first ever and our first as a family of four. Scarlett is at the age where she has started asking quite consistently for ‘more treats’ and ‘I want that’, and we’re trying to teach her that that’s a) not very polite but b) not really what this season is about. 

At two years old, we’re (hoping!) that it’s just a riskier tantrum stage, and certainly several other parents seem to recognise it as a phase all kids go through. I went to bed that night and wrote them a letter. Below is that letter. 

If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that truly, the unthinkable can ALWAYS happen! Whether it be a presidential election, a referendum or any one of the sad events that have blighted the year. But without sounding like a cheesey cartoon character, good will always prevail. A lot of bad can and will happen, but kindness and magic outnumbers it. It always has and always will, and in uncertain times, it’s even more important to believe, even more important to hold onto.

Here’s to a very happy December to you all dear comrades. I wish you every happiness and an extremely hearty dose of magic! 
“Dear daughters,

Today is the first of December, and your Father and I are both very passionate about December being magical!November has been an extremely busy, hard working, high pressure and stressful one. In a (ridiculously shortened..!) summary, Daddy didn’t have a single day off in November, an already busy month became even busier as it went along and he has been amazing. Girls, I have always been in awe of my husband, admired his work ethic and how well he treats people and this month in particular, those qualities have really shone. You are both extremely lucky to have such a strong role model in your Daddy. It’s kept me going. November for me has also been extremely important. I start Criminology lecturing in January, and I am also working with some amazing people towards increasing healthy communication about mental health for young people, as well as personal safety teaching. A wide remit including how to spot signs of danger, reducing risks, safer choices to make, a whole host of ways for younger people to take preventative measures against crime that will hopefully be incorporated into, at least a few schools. It’s going to be a long, hard slog, but you two girls are the best kind of motivation! You’ve both been at my side for a lot of meetings and countless Skype calls, a local MP told you that you, Scarlett, had a beautiful smile, and you sang Baa Baa Black sheep to him! Moments like that are alongside my research notes to remind me where we started. It may go nowhere of course, I might fail. And if I do, I’ll try again, or I’ll change tact, or I’ll have done all I can and I’ll move onto something else. But failing will be ok.

Anyway, unknown outcomes aside! November 2016 was a busy month for your Father and I. It was very tiring and at times, we were on schedules that didn’t allow for much family time. And you both know how pathetically soppy your parents are when they don’t get to see much of each other and you girls! And we think the Winter season is extra magical, it’s our favourite time of year. 

Last year was a tough one because Mummy and Holly were both so poorly before we even had our little Moop with us. And we weren’t able to deal with it as privately as we wanted to because of circumstances. So THIS year, we are determined to make it extra special! With LOTS of family time, and friends time to boot! 

Scarlett you now understand what Christmas entails and you are SO excited! We were in Bath the other day and you loved seeing Father Christmas in the streets and we picked up some Christmas gloves and a homemade wooden owl that makes an owl sound when you blow into it. You loved it! Our main goal this year is to try and make sure that you learn that kindness and good will and sharing are the most important messages in December. I know that you’re a kind hearted little Ladey though so although a toddlers will is very strong, I’m positive your generous heart will win this stage! And our little Holly! It is your very first Christmas! The bright lights are obviously attracting your attention, and you are finding your big sisters excitement very infectious. 

We’ve started our annual activity calendar so you’ve both gone to bed tonight in new Christmas Star Wars pyjamas, and tomorrow we’re going to a very special Christmas show. Both of which have cost money (although we have plenty of shows we can attend free thanks to Daddy’s work!) but that isn’t the point. Annual activity calendar is about spending time with friends and family. The first year I did it, my family in Australia took part and we sent each other pictures and videos. And since then, December has been one of the ways we catch up with people who mean the world to us but that we don’t get to see as often as we’d like.

I’m currently watching ‘Once Upon A Time’, an American series for adults but about fairy tales. It’s funny, but it’s reminded me that adults should believe in magic. It’s important to. There have been days I haven’t wanted to believe in magic, or people (which is where magic comes from really girls, it’s from people) and I’ve felt frustrated, and angry, and have wondered why I’m putting the work in. But every time, I’ve taken some time out to breathe, or (more often than not!), your Dad has reminded me what’s important in a whole different manner of ways. And without fail, things are always ok. And I’m constantly reminded that giving in and taking the easy route is never worth it. What can seem like the hardest path at the time, always seems to get us where we need to be! And yes, of course a cheesey series has the same message. For someone who can be so practical at times, both your parents can be laughably sentimental! So there have been times I’ve gone to meetings with certain character pants on to remind me to think of magic when I’m faced with middle aged men who, in a meeting, have patronised me and put hurdles in my way or have suggested that ‘as a young woman’ I would find my goals more difficult. And on particularly tough days, I’ve made a dinner of turkey dinosaurs, smiley faces and spaghetti hoops for us to indulge in childhood comforts as a morale boost. A mug of hot chocolate with squishy cream and mini marshmallows also works a treat. There’s magic in the little things, magic works! 

We are planning to make December 2016 our best Christmas yet. Our family of four is complete, safe and well. And I hope our families friends and family also have an amazing holiday season. God knows with the way 2016 went, the entire planet could do with a short break! And then, ok still a Trump presidency, but hopefully a slightly less challenging 2017 for all! We were very lucky in 2016 to have our Moop join us healthy and safe, you are a shining star in an otherwise pretty terrible year worldwide (history lessons when you’re both older will certainly be interesting when they get to 2016!). 

But, my sweethearts, as I said, magic is in people, and in December, it shines that little bit brighter, and we all have a bit extra to be able to help people for whom Christmas is particularly hard. You two make our December the shiniest it’s ever been. We love you very much and I hope you always remember to be kind, to help others and to give back, not just at Christmas time but all year round. I have no doubt you both will.

We love you very much xx”